Sunday, December 10, 2006

It's About Time(s)...

Y'know, for twelve years now, I've sat and marveled at how moderate Republicans, many of whom were recently drubbed in the midterm elections, could sit idly by while the party (and the nation's) agenda was commandeered by a vocal-yet-numerous minority of legislators who were hand-picked by extreme right wing operatives to run this country.

Sure, we've all read stories where moderates like Nancy Johnson of Connecticut was all but warned to stay in line, or risk a primary challenge backed by heavy Christian Coalition money, or how crucial swing votes on legislation, like Lincoln Chafee's, were obtained in what amounted to dropping a manila envelope with pornographic pictures of him on his desk. Yet, the only man who had the gall to stand up to this kind of treatment, Jim Jeffords, had to leave the party rather than try to form an insurgency, for lack of a better word.

And yet, as it turns out, an insurgency is what was needed:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 — The release of the report by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group this week exposed deep fissures among Republicans over how to manage a war that many fear will haunt their party — and the nation — for years to come.

A document that many in Washington had hoped would pave the way for a bipartisan compromise on Iraq instead drew sharp condemnation from the right, with hawks saying it was a wasted effort that advocated a shameful American retreat.

[...]Republican moderates clung to the report, mindful of the drubbing the party received in last monthÂ’s midterm elections largely because of Iraq. They said they hoped President Bush would adopt the groupÂ’s principal recommendations and begin the process of disengagement from the long and costly war. But White House officials who conducted a preliminary review of the report said they had concluded that many of the proposals were impractical or unrealistic.

The divisions could make it more difficult for Republicans to coalesce on national security policy and avoid a bitter intraparty fight going into the 2008 campaign.
Apparently, the famed Republican discipline of the past twelve years is gone. Good riddance, says I.

The absolute absurdity of this conflict in Iraq has reached proportions where it is hurting domestic policy. We've all been told how Iraq required no sacrifice for us here, but oh, it did. Just not for the people who wanted the war.

Take these examples from an article in Time Magazine this week, profiling Milwaukee, a typical moderate sized city in AmeriMidwestdwest, and what it has lost because of this horrid abomination called "Operation Iraqi Freedom":
It's as if Milwaukee, Wis., had reverted to a state of lethal chaos. A Special Olympian is killed for his wallet as he waits for a bus. An 11-year-old girl is gang-raped by as many as 19 men. A woman is strangled, her body found burning in a city-owned garbage cart. Twenty-eight people are shot, four fatally, over a holiday weekend.

These are the kinds of crimes American cities expected never to see in high numbers again. In the 1990s police departments nationwide began applying the so-called broken-windows theory: arrest the bad guys for minor offenses, and they wouldn't be around to commit more serious ones. This zero-tolerance approach--combined with more cops on the street to enforce it, a strong economy and a fortuitous demographic change that reduced the population of young men who typically cause the most trouble--lowered the rates of murder, robbery and rape for 10 consecutive years. Until last year. Not only did crime suddenly begin to rise in 2005, but the most violent crimes led the trend. Homicides shot up 3.4%. Robberies, 3.9%. Aggravated assaults, 1.8%. Hardest hit were not metropolises like New York City and Los Angeles but cities with populations between 400,000 and 1 million--such as Baltimore, Md.; Charlotte, N.C.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Oakland, Calif.--and this year looks to see similar rates of increase, if not worse.

Few places have suffered more than Milwaukee. The homicide count for the city of 590,000 fell from 130 in 1996 to just 88 in 2004. But last year, according to FBI figures, Milwaukee saw the country's largest jump in homicides--up 40%, to 121.[...]


Most municipalities count on grants from the Justice Department's State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance and Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program to help pay for officers on their force. But $1.9 billion, or 45%, of that funding has disappeared since the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, as federal resources are increasingly directed toward homeland security and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Midsize cities, which depend more heavily on federal funds than larger ones do, have nearly 25% fewer officers than they did in 2001, and the White House's budget proposal for next year would sweep away an additional $1.5 billion.[...]

Further exacerbating the city's police shortage is the redeployment of cops from the streets of Milwaukee to those of Baghdad, Mosul and Kabul. As many as 135 officers at one time have gone on leave to serve in Wisconsin's National Guard or military reserve units in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It's difficult to manage a force that's always coming and going," says police chief Nanette Hegerty. Those left to hold down the fort at home feel overstretched and underappreciated. "Morale is low," says Officer John Balcerzak, head of the police union. "We're racing to a new crime before we've investigated the last. That leaves criminals out there on the streets."[...]


Since 1998, Wisconsin has lost nearly 90,000 manufacturing jobs. Milwaukee has suffered the brunt of that, hemorrhaging 7,500 positions in 2005 alone. The unemployment rate hovers around 7%, up from 2.6% in 1998 and nearly double the national average. [...]
It is, however, true, as the graphic I posted last night indicates, that those who live in the bluest areas of the nation suffer the most for this war for oil, as Bush himself admitted.

You might think that people of all political stripes would be free to speak out against this war, to point out the idiocy of spending nearly half a trillion on a losing battle, when we were told $87 billion and six months would be all it would require. It's a creehemorrhageorage, but the people who are actually spending this money, the Congress, ought to have been a little more antsy about voting for it with each passing appropriation.

The Democrats made a stink about it, but Republicans and their attack-dog spinmeisters were able to discount that as partisan bleating of a minority party, trying to create an issue where none existed. It required the GOP moderates to get off their duffs and do something about it. With safety in numbers, by banding together, they could have fended off extremist threats: after all, even the Christian Coalition would run out of money at some point if enough people with backbones stood up.

It's sad that it took three thousand dead American men and women, $500 billion and counting in lost money, a midterm election debacle, an incipient crime spree, and what amounts to the embarrassingssing month in the history of the American presidency, including Richard Nixon's resignation, for a moderate coalition to coalesce.

Too little. And definitely too late.

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